Moments Posted in Russia/Soviet Union

This is an archive of Moments in U.S. Diplomatic History posted in the Russia/Soviet Union category.

“Never get into an elevator with a Polish blonde” — More Honeypots

During the Cold War and beyond, Western diplomats had to constantly keep their wits about them when serving in the USSR and the Eastern bloc as they were prime targets for the KGB and respective Secret Police forces, who relied on a range of methods to get access to classified information. One of the most […]



The Berlin Crisis of 1961

In the early years of the Cold War, Berlin repeatedly became the focal point of tension between the U.S. and the USSR in the struggle for supremacy in Europe. Between 1945 and 1950, over 15 million people emigrated from Soviet-occupied eastern European countries to the West, which led Moscow and East Germany to tighten emigration […]



No Dogs Allowed Here in Soviet Russia

Diplomats are often faced with difficult circumstances. Their negotiations may affect the outcome of international disputes or solidify relations among nations. Sometimes diplomatic skills are also necessary for certain circumstances — such as determining whether an American dog can stay in a Soviet hotel.



Operation Winter Warmth – Helping Armenia in Its Darkest Hour

When Armenia gained its independence after the collapse of the USSR in 1991, it was in dire straits. It was in the midst of a bitter war with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, its borders with Turkey were closed, which prevented the transshipment of goods. Civil unrest reigned in neighboring Georgia, where bandits would frequently steal from […]



Get Your Cameras Ready: Celebrities in the Embassies

While the work at embassies can often put Foreign Service officers in harm’s way, on occasion they have the chance to rub elbows with the rich and famous. That could range from helping the niece of a famous actor get a passport, arranging a meeting between a diplomatic rock star and George Harrison or, in a […]



Books, Defectors, and Song — The Cuban Missile Crisis, as Seen from Moscow

The Soviet Union, in Churchill’s famous words, was a “riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”; as such it made it extremely difficult for outsiders – including foreign intelligence services — to separate fact from fiction. The United States had a range of sources to gather intel:  spies, bugs, publicly available information like brochures and […]



Poison as a Weapon in Putin’s Russia

Russia’s tumultuous history is replete with backstabbing — sometimes literal — where the powerful would seek their vengeance with a host of toxins. Poisoning could be used as a way of getting rid of rivals, as punishment, or simply to “let you know whose country you are in.” It was not limited to just political […]



Counterinsurgency in Eastern Afghanistan 2004-2008 — An Overview

It is impossible to understand the War in Afghanistan, now the longest war in American history, much less the motives for the United States to lead this international engagement, without first understanding Afghanistan itself and considering the historical context preceding and surrounding the war. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States’ foreign […]



Returning the Crown of Saint Stephen to post-Cold War Hungary

For centuries, it was the national symbol of a nation. For decades, it was kept in Fort Knox for safekeeping. The Crown of Saint Stephen dates back to the year 1000, when Stephen, a devout Christian and the patron saint of Hungary, became King and Pope Sylvester II gave him the crown as a gift. From […]



The Afghan Invasion as Seen from U.S. Embassy Moscow

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was, among other things, a horrible political miscalculation, lasting nine bloody years and resulting in the death of some one million civilians as well as forcing millions of others to flee the country. It led to another cold spell in U.S.-Soviet relations as the Carter administration responded by boycotting the USSR’s […]